Today, Rep. Hank Johnson joined millions of Americans in marking the annual celebration of February as Black History Month -- a commemoration dating to 1976.
"During Black History Month, we celebrate the invaluable contributions African Americans have made to our nation, state and county's history and identity," said Rep. Johnson. "Throughout our history, African-American men and women have persevered through much hardship and prejudice to enrich our national and local life."
The theme of Black History Month this year is "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington."
This Black History Month, Hank pointed to three landmarks in American history: the 150th anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the second inauguration of the nation's first African-American president.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, courageously declaring that "all persons held as slaves" in rebellious areas "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." He opened the Union Army and Navy to African Americans, giving new strength to liberty's cause. With the proclamation, Lincoln lent new moral force to the war by making it a fight not just to preserve the Union, but also to end slavery.
On August 28, 1963, the historic March on Washington was led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and where he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The March is credited by historians as playing a key role in leading to the enactment of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
On January 21, 2013, the nation inaugurated Barack Obama as its first African-American president for a second four-year term.
"As we mark the anniversaries of these two landmark events in the struggle to achieve freedom, justice and secure economic opportunity for African Americans -- and we celebrate President Obama's second inauguration -- let us also acknowledge that our work to widen the circle of opportunity for all Americans is still not complete," Rep. Johnson said. "Let us vow that we will press on and not rest until America fully lives up to its ideals and allows all Americans to reach their full potential and achieve their version of the American Dream."